Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 10   No. 33

This issue is co-sponsored
Yerachmiel Leib ben Avraham Yitzchak
l'iluy Nishmas his father
Avraham Yitzchak ben Yerachmiiel z.l.
by an anonymous sponsor

Parshas Bechukosai

These Are The Mitzvos
(Adapted from the Torah Temimah)

The Book of Va'Yikra concludes "These are the Mitzvos that G-d commanded Moshe . . . " and the Gemara in Shabbos (104a) learns from here that no Navi is permitted to add anything to the Torah. "These are the Mitzvos which G-d commanded Moshe", and there are no others.

Torah is called 'Toras Moshe' because Moshe was moser nefesh for it, and he was the one to transcribe the written Torah, and to teach us the oral interpretations. It therefore stands to reason that subsequent Nevi'im did not have the authority to change anything that Moshe gave us, nor even to add to it. Moreover, in its concluding Pesukim, the Torah testifies that there was never another Navi like Moshe . . . .

This does not mean that the Chachamim through the generations, are forbidden to add Mitzvos of their own, in the form of fences, decrees, and safeguards. Quite to the contrary, that in itself, is a Mitzvah, as the Torah writes explicitly in Vayikra (18:30) "u'Shemartem es mishmarti", from which Chazal derive that it is a Mitzvah to safeguard the Torah laws. Even when Esther asked the Chachamim to commemorate her actions by fixing a Yom-tov (Purim), the Chachamim hesitated, not because of "Eileh ha'Mitzvos", but due to practical (security) considerations. Indeed, they raised no objections when the Chashmona'im instituted Chanukah. "Eileh ha'Mitzvos", it seems, comes to preclude adding Mitzvos or the interpretation of Mitzvos (as we shall see) to the Torah's Mitzvos, not to instituting Mitzvos which are clearly defined as Mitzvos de'Rabbanan.


Re-instituting Mitzvos that have been forgotten, would not, at first glance, seem to fit into the current prohibition. Yet the Gemara in Temurah (16a) relates that with regard to the three thousand Halachos that were forgotten during the mourning period following Moshe's death, Shmuel Hanavi refused to re-establish them through prophesy, because he said "Eileh ha'Mitzvos", and no Navi is permitted to add anything new.

The Gemara in Megilah (3a) on the other hand, explains how the Nevi'im introduced new laws, and upon querying this from "Eileh ha'Mitzvos", answers that these laws were forgotten and all the Nevi'im did was to re-establish them. These two Gemaros appear to contradict each other.

The Torah Temimah draws a distinction between reinstating forgotten Halachos by means of prophesy and doing so using the rules and principles handed to Moshe at Har Sinai. The Gemara in Temurah, he explains, is talking about reinstating the Halachos by means of prophesy. That is forbidden (since no prophet has the authority to introduce [or to re-introduce] Torah to K'lal Yisrael other than Moshe Rabeinu). The Gemara in Megilah on the other hand, is talking about reinstating Halachos that were forgotten, through the application of the Torah's principles (which after all, were handed to us by Moshe Rabeinu). And what's more, a Navi is no worse than a Chacham in this regard.

It is not clear though why, if that is so, the latter Gemara speaks about a Navi and not a Chacham.


According to what we have just said, the Torah Temimah continues, when the Gemara in numerous places, concludes that Eliyahu will clarify the many issues which remain unresolved, it means that with the extra Divine spirit that will envelop him, he will be able to resolve all the doubts, by applying the Torah's principles, not by means of prophecy.

We have just concluded that "Eileh ha'Mitzvos" is the source for prohibiting a Navi to introduce forgotten Mitzvos or parts of Mitzvos, or to resolving issues that are in doubt. This makes good sense, because as far as introducing new Mitzvos is concerned, no Pasuk is needed, since we already know it from "Lo Sosifu" and "Lo Sigre'u" (in Va'eschanan [the prohibition of adding or subtracting Mitzvos per se, either whole or in part]).


The Torah Temimah cites Rashi's interpretation of the Gemara in Bechoros 24a. The Gemara there talks about Eliyahu coming to clarify whether a Safek Bechor really is the child of its mother (and is therefore a Bechor) or not, and seemingly clashes with "Eileh ha'Mitzvos". (It is not clear as to why we cannot explain the Sugya there like we just explained the Gemara in Megilah).

Not so, he says, since that is not a matter of a Safek which is based on a lack of knowledge of the Halachah, but rather one that is based on a lack of knowledge of the facts. Once the facts are known, the Halachah is self-evident. And he uses this explanation to answer the Kashya of the Kapos Temarim on the Gemara in Yuma (75a). The Gemara explains how the Mon was sometimes used to settle disputes. If Reuven say, claimed that a slave that currently belonged to Shimon was really his, then they would simply count the number of portions of Mon that fell the next morning in each one's batch, and they would know that whoever had the extra portion, would take the slave.

Why, asks the Kapos Temarim, does this not contradict Chazal, who say in Bava Metzi'a (59b) 'Lo ba'Shamayim Hi' (the Torah is not in Heaven. It is for us to issue rulings, not G-d)?

According to what we just said however, there is not the least problem, since all G-d did was to clarify to whom the slave belonged; the Halachah would fall into place automatically.


Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Ma'ayanah shel Torah)

Eating One's Fill

"And you will eat your bread to satisfaction" (26:5).

The Gemara in Gitin (70a) advises that one should eat a third, drink a third and leave a third free, to allow the anger to fill the empty space, in the event that one becomes angry.

This, says the Tif'eres Yonasan, explains the Pasuk in Mishlei (13:25) ''A Tzadik eats to satisfaction, but the stomach of a Rasha is lacking". It is the Tzadik who controls his anger, who can safely eat his fill. The Rasha, whose anger controls him, as Chazal say, is well-advised to leave room in his stomach, for his anger to fill the empty space.

Likewise, the Degel Machaneh Efrayim explains the Pasuk in Tehilim (22:27) "The humble will eat and be satisfied". It is the humble, he explains, who may safely eat and be satisfied. The vain and the conceited, whose anger is easily aroused, are better off leaving an empty space for their anger to fill.

The Torah writes here "And you will eat your bread to satisfaction", because it is speaking in times when Yisrael perform the will of G-d. They are Tzadikim and are not prone to anger. They can eat their fill without having to worry about leaving space for their anger.


But Watch the Booze

Chazal, based on a Pasuk in Amos, have taught that the ten tribes were sent into exile because they drank too much wine. That explains why, even though the Torah referred earlier to a bountiful wine harvest just as it did to a grain harvest (see Pasuk 5), it now speaks of eating one's fill, but is careful to avoid speaking about drinking one's fill (Likutei Ritzba).


Leaving Plenty of Room

Rashi explains our Pasuk quite differently. Such is G-d's blessing, he writes, that one will eat little and the food will be blessed in the stomach (see Parshah Pearls, last week 'Better not to Ask').

According to Rashi then, the Pasuk is really referring to Tzadikim who only need to eat little (and not to eating one's fill, as we explained until now). In that case, the advice of the Gemara in Gitin does not apply to them anyway.


One Blessing Leads to Another

"And you will eat your bread to satisfaction, and you will dwell in safety in your land. And I will make peace in the land" (26:10/11).

When there is plenty to eat, the commentaries explain, the residents of one country do not need to travel to other places to look for Parnasah. Neither is their room for the jealousies and the petty squabbles that result from a shortage of food. That is why the Torah links dwelling safely in the land and living peacefully in the land, to prosperity.


The Eternal Scapegoats

"And I will make peace in the land and you will go to bed without fear" (26"6).

When there is peace in the world, you will sleep in peace. But when there are wars, you will not be able to, the Or ha'Chayim explains, because in time of war, the Jews, the eternal scapegoats, invariably suffer, whether they are directly involved or not.


Happy Dreams

Chazal tell us that David Hamelech never had a pleasant dream. The constant wars that he fought, it seems, stole his peace of mind, even to the point that they affected his sleep.

Hence the Torah writes here that when there is peace in the land, the people will be able to go to bed with peace of mind.


Running Away from One's Own Shadow

"And you will flee, but no-one is chasing you" (26"17).

What difference does it make whether someone is chasing us or not. If anything, it would be more terrifying if somebody was pursuing us.

The answer lies in the Pasuk in Koheles, "and G-d seeks (assists) the chased", from which Chazal derive, that no matter what, Hashem always takes the part of the one who is being pursued.

And that is the punch-line here. If we were running away from our pursuers, then we would find solace in the knowledge that G-d will take our part. So the Torah adds 'and there is no-one pursuing you", in which case, you cannot expect G-d to take your part. That in itself, is a curse.


Vengeance with a Vengeance

"And I will bring on you the sword that avenges the vengeance of the covenant" (26:28).

When a king conquers an enemy's country, he does not punish its inhabitants for their misdeeds, since, up until then, they had not sworn their allegiance to him. And that will apply even to the soldiers who fought against him, perhaps killing many of his own loyal troops. They were simply doing their duty, just as his troops were doing theirs.

But it is different when his own subjects rebel. In that case, he will quash the rebellion, and follow this up by severely punishing the rebels for their disloyalty.

That is why the Torah refers here to the vengeance of the covenant, explains the Netziv. We are not strangers in a foreign land vis-a-vis Hashem. We are His subjects with whom we entered into a covenant at Har Sinai. Therefore when we rebel against G-d, it is not like any other nation who does so. It is a very serious business indeed, prompting Him to avenge His honour and to send against us the sword of the covenant.


In similar vein, The Sh'loh explains the Pasuk later "And I will remember My covenant with Ya'akov . . . with Yitzchak . . and with Avraham, and I will remember the land (26:42). The question arises, what this Pasuk has to do with the Tochachah, where it is written?

And he answers that it is precisely because we had such super ancestors as the Avos, and a wonderful land like Eretz Yisrael, that exacerbates our sins many fold.


And that is how the Rosh explains the Pasuk at the end of Acharei-Mos ""And the land will not sick you out when you render it impure, like it sicked out the nations who were there before you."

The nations that preceded Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael were ejected from the land in a relatively gentle way, because they are relative strangers. Not so you, with whom I entered into a covenant. If you abrogate that covenant by sinning, you will not just be ejected, you will be made to suffer greatly in the process.


The Supreme Hypocrite

When the Satan accused Iyov, Chazal have taught, he did so with the noblest of motives. His intention was to prove that no-one, not even Iyov, could match the good deeds of Avraham Avinu. Since when, asks the Sh'loh, is it the Satan's business to praise the Tzadikim and herald their good deeds? Surely his job is to prosecute, and not to defend?

The answer, he explains, lies in what we just said. The Satan had in mind to prosecute K'lal Yisrael (his major task in this world). Now in order to do that effectively, he needed to boost the good deeds of the Avos. Once he achieved that, it would make his job that much easier, because he would use that to prove the extent of Yisrael's wickedness.


It seems to me that there is another way of answering the Sh'loh's Kashya.

The Gemara teaches us in Bava Basra that Avraham Avinu overcame the Yeitzer ha'Ra once and for all. In that case, based on the Pasuk in Mishlei (16:7) "When G-d accepts the ways of a man, also his enemy makes peace with him", it is reasonable to assume that the Yeitzer ha'Ra, (alias the Satan) made peace with Avraham and became his friend. To the point that he went out of his way to make Iyov suffer just to prove how great Avraham (who had passed ten tests, whilst Iyov would fail his first one) was. A good friend indeed.

This seems to fit better with the Gemara, which specifically states that the Satan as well as Peninah, acted 'le'Shem Shamayim'


(Adapted from the B'nei Yisaschar)

To explain the essence of Lag bo'Omer, the B'nei Yisaschar turns to his own unique interpretation of a Mishnah in Avos. The Mishnah (2:8/9) describes how Raban Yochanan ben Zakai instructed his five Talmidim to go out and see which is the good way of life to which a person should cleave, and how each Talmid presented his opinion. Rebbi Eliezer said 'a good eye', Rebbi Yehoshua, 'a good friend', Rebbi Yossi, 'a good neighbor', Rebbi Shimon said 'to foresee the result of one's actions', and Rebbi Elazar, 'a good heart'.

And he goes on to explain that what Raban Yochanan ben Zakai was asking them to do, was to go and find a source in the Torah as to which is the overall good that incorporates all the other goods. In fact, he says, they all pointed to the Pasuk in Bereishis "And G-d saw that the light was good" (" ... ki Tov"), because this is the first time that the letter "Tes" (as well as the word "Tov") occurs in the Torah. And he explains how this particular word is connected to the concept of a good eye, a good friend, a good neighbour, and foreseeing the results of one's actions, and how each one derived his opinion from it.

In spite of this, Raban Yochanan ben Zakai preferred Rebbi Elazar's view, that it hints to a good heart, because as opposed to all the others, who learned only from the one word, he learned from the fact that "Tov" is the forty-ninth word, which matches the numerical value of 'Leiv tov' (a good heart). And because the teaching incorporates all the words up to that point, a good heart is more likely to be the good Midah, incorporating all the other good Midos, to which he was referring.


The B'nei Yisaschar refers to what he wrote in his D'rashos on Pesach with regard to the Exodus from Egypt. He wrote there that it had to take place quickly, before K'lal Yisrael could possibly prove themselves worthy of such a miracle. And he added that, seeing as Divinely-inspired favours of which the recipient is unworthy, have no permanence, it was vital that, following the event, they work hard, to make up for the deficiency. In that way, they would at least earn the forthcoming Matan Torah, transforming the occasion from a Divine favour into an event of which they were worthy.

And they did this by counting the forty-nine ('Leiv-tov') days of the Omer with all the Avodah that this entailed. By doing so, they attained the ultimate 'Leiv-tov' that is the key to all that is good, as we just explained, and were prepared to receive the Torah under their own steam, when the great day arrived.

Indeed, 'the only Tov' say Chazal , 'is Torah', whereas 'Leiv' represents the thirty-two pathways of Chochmah.

Note that in Rebbi Eliezer's D'rashah in Bereishis, 'Leiv' is hidden in the opening words in the Torah, whereas "Tov" is written explicitly. This is because the thirty-two pathways of Chochmah were hidden until their goodness ('Tov') became revealed.

In fact, this refers to the light which Hashem hid (see Rashi there 1:2), until the time came to reveal it to the Tzadikim. Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai is known by the title 'Botzina Kadisha' ('the holy Menorah') precisely because he revealed the hidden light through his Seifer, which he called 'Zohar' because it shines from one end of the world to the other. When did that happen?

After his death on Lag bo'Omer, when he instructed Rebbi Aba to transcribe the Zohar.

Now the thirty-two ('Leiv') days prior to Lag ba'Omer therefore represent the hidden secrets of Torah, which only came to light on Lag bo'Omer, as we just explained. And from Lag bo'Omer until Shevu'os seventeen ('tov') days remain, leading up to the ultimate revelation at Har Sinai.


With this explanation, we can understand the Minhag to light lights on Lag bo'Omer. We do so in honour of the light of 'Ki-tov' which began to shine on this precious day, seventeen days prior to Matan Torah, and we do it in honour of the Neshamah of the great luminary, 'the holy Menorah', whose Torah became revealed on the same day.

That is the light which illuminates the darkness of galus, until the advent of Mashi'ach (about whom the Pasuk writes "And G-d said, let there be light").

And that is also why the simchah (which is synonymous with light ) at the graveside of Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai on Lag bo'Omer, is unparalleled. Indeed, that is why it has become known as the Yom Hilula of Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai.


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